Did you know that 1 in 8 Americans over the age of 65 — and nearly half of all individuals over the age of 80 — suffer from severe cognitive decline? And did you know that correcting a simple nutrient deficiency that affects an estimated 1 in 2 older individuals could significantly reduce your risk of developing age-related cognitive problems?
Unfortunately, many of us are familiar with the hallmark signs of brain aging: declining mental energy, brain fog and “senior moments,” irritability, mood swings … the list goes on and on. Most people either accept these things as “just part of getting older,” or take whatever drugs their doctors prescribe in the hopes of feeling better.
But guess what? These are NOT normal signs of brain aging.
More often than not, there is a singular, easily remedied vitamin deficiency underlying many of these symptoms, making you feel older than you are! Yet tragically, it frequently goes undetected by doctors until it manifests as a severe neurological disorder, dementia, mental illness … or worse.
What I’m talking about here is vitamin B12 deficiency, which sadly, affects nearly 50% of older adults.. If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms I described above, it’s imperative that you take action NOW before irreversible damage occurs. The good news is that B12 deficiency can be remedied easily, quickly and inexpensively. But don’t run out and grab the first bottle of B12 you see — it’s crucial that you take the right kind of B12.
Signs You May Have a B12 Deficiency
- Memory problems
- Confusion or “fuzziness”
- Irritability and mood swings
- Persistent sleep problems
- Weak immunity
- Low energy and weakness
- Hearing and vision loss
- Tingling in the extremities
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Digestive problems
What You Need to Know About B12
Vitamin B12 is essential to the very foundation of life itself — it’s one of the building blocks your body uses to produce DNA. It protects your brain and nervous system by keeping nerves healthy and communicating in an optimal manner.[4,5] It also keeps your immune system functioning optimally, regulates mood and sleep cycles[7,4] and is crucial to energy production, which is why it’s known as the “energy vitamin.”
Emerging research is showing that one of B12’s most powerful protective properties for the brain is its ability to lower levels of the stress hormone homocysteine. Reductions in circulation homocysteine levels as a result of increase blood levels of B12 have been found to reduce the risk of developing age-related cognitive problems.[9,10]
How B12 Protects Your Brain
Cognitive decline is a serious concern for most of us as we get older, and the statistics are grim. The good nes is that getting enough B12 can drastically cut your risk!
Scientists now understand that age-related cognitive decline is linked to a process in the body that involves a decrease in brain mass. That’s right, your brain actually shrinks as you age! This reduction in brain mass is directly correlated with loss of memory and cognitive function seen in older individuals.
Emerging research is showing that being deficient in B12 puts your brain in serious danger, so if you care about your cognitive health, you better be sure that you’re getting enough. Recently, a landmark study showed vitamin B12 supplementation slows the accelerated rate of brain shrinkage and declining cognitive scores in older individuals. Another study showed that older individuals with higher levels of B12 in their blood had less shrinkage of the brain than counterparts with lower levels. Those with higher B12 blood levels and increased brain size even scored higher on memory and cognitive tests!
B12 Deficiency: The Silent Epidemic
Recent studies have shown that nearly 1 in 2 older adults have dangerously low levels of B12.[2,14] The older you are, the higher your risk, but younger people aren’t exempt from harm. In a shocking recent Tufts University study, researchers found that nearly 1 in 4 people over age 26 are at least borderline deficient in B12 and may already be experiencing symptoms as a result.
The worst part is that doctors typically misdiagnose B12 deficiency symptoms and then prescribe drugs that do nothing to address the problem, but instead, have plenty of side effects that only serve to make you feel worse! But you can avoid falling into that trap.
Why Are So Many People B12 Deficient?
I learned about B12 deficiency the hard way. When I was a bit younger, I followed a vegetarian diet until I began experiencing some “mystery” symptoms that fit the description of a B12 deficiency. My doctor tried to prescribe me drugs, but luckily, I figured out what the problem was and to how fix it. It’s long been known that vegetarians are at increased risk for B12 deficiency, since B12 is only found in red meat and a few other animal foods. But contrary to what some “experts” have said for years, it’s not just vegetarians who are at risk.
The reason that the vast majority of people end up B12 deficient has nothing to do with their B12 intake, but rather, their ability to absorb B12 from food. As you get older, the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, which you need to absorb B12 from food. The use of certain drugs can also lower your stomach acid secretion, further hampering B12 absorption. This is why with B12 supplements, a sublingual (under the tongue) delivery system — which ensures the B12 goes directly into your bloodstream, bypassing your digestive tract — is absolutely essential.
B12 Deficiency Risk Factors
B12 deficiency can strike anyone, but you are at higher risk if you:
- Are over the age of 45
- Take acid-blocking medications
- Are a vegan or vegetarian
- Are or have ever been anemic
- Suffer from digestive problems
- Have low stomach acid
- Take certain diabetes drugs
- Drink alcoholic beverages
WARNING: Some B12 Supplements Contain Cyanide
The form of B12 that you’ll find in most B12 products — even the B12 injections your doctor may administer — is cyanocobalamin. Can you guess how this form of B12 gets its name? Cyanocobalamin is comprised of a cyanide molecule attached to a cobalamin (B12) molecule. Cyanide is a toxic poison that the body cannot metabolize, and over time, it can accumulate in brain tissues with disastrous results.
For reasons I’ll never fully understand, way too many B12 supplements on the market today are made with this virtually worthless form of B12. My guess is that these companies are just out to save money at the expense of your health, which is truly a shame.
What to Look for in a B12 Supplement
The right form: You want to take a supplement made with the methylcobalamin form of B12, which research has shown to be the safest and most effective.
The right dosage: Currently, most experts recommend taking a minimum of 1,000 mcg a day of sublingual methylcobalamin. Higher dosages of up to 15,000 mcg per day are sometimes required to bring levels back up to an optimal level and to restore energy, mental function and mood balance. B12 has no known drug interactions and has never shown any adverse or toxic effects in humans, even when given in very large doses.
The right delivery system: Look for a supplement with a sublingual (under the tongue) delivery system instead of a pill. Sublingual delivery ensures absorption directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract, which makes it effective even for those who can’t absorb B12 from food. With a sublingual B12, you’ll experience immediate boosts in your energy, mental clarity and mood.
2. Geriatrics. 2003; 58(3):30-4, 37-8.
3. Pacholok SM and Stuart JJ. Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses. 1st ed. Linden Publishing, 2005.
4. Eur J Pharm. 1993; 241:1-6.
5. Neurosci Lett. 2000; 288:191-4.
6. Clin Exp Immunol. 1999; 116:28-32.
7. Neuropsychopharm. 1996; 15:456-64.
8. Herbert V. Vitamin B12 in Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 17th ed. International Life Sciences Institute Press, 1996.
9. Clin Nutr. 2012; 1-7.
10. Ann Pharmacother. 2000; 34:57-65.
12. PLoS ONE. 5(9): e12244. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012244.
13. Neurology. Published online Dec. 28, 2011. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598
14. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 71:514-22.
15. Annu Rev Nutr. 1999; 19:357-77.
16. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000; 14:651-68.
17. J Royal Soc Med. 1992; 85:686-7.